‘Cover up’ row over ex-councillor child porn charges

Richard Smith. (S)
Richard Smith. (S)
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A political row blew up this week after it was revealed that former Pendle Councillor Richard Smith – who resigned eight months ago citing “personal reasons” – had admitted three offences of making under-age porn photographs.

Smith (32), of Waidshouse Road, Nelson, resigned from his Clover Hill ward seat in Nelson in December.

Coun. Mohammed Iqbal

Coun. Mohammed Iqbal

It has now emerged he had been arrested by police in November on suspicion of downloading and viewing indecent images of under-age boys. He was not charged until July 27th.

Tories accused the controlling Labour group of a cover-up, and one of them called on Labour leader Coun Mohammed Iqbal to resign.

Smith pleaded guilty before Burnley magistrates and was committed on bail to appear at Burnley Crown Court on September 28th. The offences carry a possible prison sentence.

Smith had been a member of Pendle Council for four years and would have been due for re-election as a councillor at this year’s May elections. He was also a member of Nelson Town Council.

This issue isn’t about politics, it’s about an individual. I condemn this kind of offence whether it’s committed by a councillor or anyone else

Labour leader Coun Mohammed Iqbal

Coun Joe Cooney, leader of Pendle Conservatives, said: “I find it staggering to believe that absolutely nobody in Pendle Labour knew about this when councillor Smith resigned. Knowing how a council group works, it’s almost impossible to comprehend that the Labour council leader, Coun. Iqbal, knew nothing of this until today, after a shock resignation months ago.

“It smacks to me of a cover-up, and I’d urge the Labour Party to hold a thorough investigation.”

Deputy Leader Coun Paul White added: “I am sick to the stomach that just weeks ago Coun. Iqbal put on child safeguarding training for all councillors, while this has been allegedly going on in his own party. He is unfit to lead the people of Pendle.

“If this is going on under his nose, and he says he didn’t know why his councillor resigned, I have to wonder what else is going unnoticed or unreported. I have long championed the safety of our children. No stone should go unturned in finding these sick people, and Coun. Iqbal as Leader of the Council should be leading that charge’.

Coun. Joe Cooney

Coun. Joe Cooney

Labour group leader Coun Mohammed Iqbal replied: “I am very disappointed that the Conservatives are trying to make this into a political point-scoring game.

“The truth is that I wasn’t aware of the seriousness of the allegations against Coun. Smith.

“All I knew was that Richard said he wanted to resign for personal reasons. He did mention it was something involving a police investigation but he did not say what it was and I did not press him to go into the full details.

“As a councillor, he gave me no concerns and I had no issues with him, but other than that I did not know him well personally.

“If this had come to light while he was still a serving councillor, he would have been expelled from the Labour group immediately.”

Coun Iqbal pointed out he had intoduced child exploitation awareness training for councillors, which the Conservatives had not done while in power.

He added: “If councillors Cooney and White are questioning the integrity of the Labour group they should be ashamed of their actions.

“This issue isn’t about politics, it’s about an individual. I condemn this kind of offence whether it’s committed by a councillor or anyone else.

“It’s now up to the law to take its course. It’s not for politicians to be judge and jury.”